Livros sobre o Rio de Janeiro
ReproduçãoLivros sobre o Rio de Janeiro

The best books about Rio de Janeiro

Want to understand more about the city's history, the Carioca way of life, and all its quirks? These books are for you.

Renata Magalhães

From the arrival of the Portuguese court in Brazil in 1808 to the development of the city as we know it today, numerous books provide deeper insights into Rio de Janeiro. This paradise-like setting, marked by contradictions, deserves a closer look for those who want to truly understand its nuances. In different decades, João do Rio and Clarice Lispector described its streets. Zuenir Ventura painted a picture of its violence. Toninho Vaz discussed a crucial era for the development of our culture. There’s even an American on the list, with a bestselling guide on the “jeitinho carioca.” Many of these titles are out of print, but you can find used copies online. Some are more historical, while others will give you a good laugh. Make your choice and happy reading!

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The best books about Rio de Janeiro

Carnaval no Fogo

Ruy Castro's chronicle takes you from the first Tupinambá Indian who dated a French pirate to the New Year's Eve parties in Copacabana, covering 500 years of Rio's history. The author blends narrative, essay, history, and chitchat to paint a picture of the city, showing the ever-present excitement – a permanent "Carnival in the fire." This out-of-print gem is now a collector's item, with copies selling for over R$500. Some sites offer used books at more reasonable prices.

Carnaval no Fogo, by Ruy Castro. Companhia das Letras. 256pp. R$18 (used) - R$522.

A Alma Encantadora das Ruas

This special bilingual edition features luxurious contributions from Waltercio Caldas, who created illustrations for the chronicles João do Rio published between 1904 and 1907. During a time of rapid transformation, the journalist wandered the streets, capturing the multifaceted figures that populated them, like beggars, common workers, and children. The work has become an important anthropological document from an era when the first lights of modernity began to shine.

A Alma Encantadora das Ruas, by João do Rio. Editora Cidade Viva. 487pp. R$75.


O Corpo Encantado das Ruas

If João do Rio chronicled the enchanted soul of Rio in the 20th century, Luiz Antonio Simas appears 100 years later as the historian of Rio's body. This book, with a cover that nods to the candy bags of São Cosme and Damião, delves into the streets from downtown to the suburbs. From the São Brás charm to avoid choking, market conversations, everyday life in corner shops, to the neighborhood bar, Simas covers it all, sidestepping the official historiography.

O Corpo Encantado das Ruas, by Luiz Antonio Simas. Civilização Brasileira. 176pp. R$54.90.

A História do Rio de Janeiro

In honor of Rio de Janeiro's 450th anniversary in 2015, historian Armelle Enders released a new edition of her book. A professor at the University of Paris, she provides a detailed historical portrait of the city, from its founding to the present day. The eight chapters, illustrated with maps, documents, and photographs, cover the city's evolution and the challenges it faces.

A História do Rio de Janeiro, by Armelle Enders. Gryphus. 428pp. R$94.90.


Cidade de Deus

Written by Paulo Lins, this book inspired the internationally acclaimed film by Fernando Meirelles. It offers a sophisticated panorama of life in one of Rio de Janeiro's poorest regions. The author paints a picture that still resonates with the reality of favela residents, addressing issues like youth, drug trafficking, parallel governments, poverty, and violence.

Cidade de Deus, by Paulo Lins. Tusquets. 400pp. R$81.90.

Memórias de um Sargento de Milícias

Published in 1853, Manuel Antônio de Almeida's book exposed the intimate angles of society like never before. In a bold move for the time, the minutiae of everyday life were examined under a magnifying glass, stripped of any idealization, creating a restless portrait of a bygone Rio de Janeiro. This year, a new edition by Antropofágica, featuring over 50 illustrations by Manuela Navas, was released.

Memórias de um Sargento de Milícias, by Manuel Antônio de Almeida. Antofágica. 352pp. R$94.41.



While police commissioner Alberto Mattos investigates a mysterious businessman’s murder in the Deauville building, a plot to assassinate journalist Carlos Lacerda, a staunch Vargas opponent, is brewing in the Catete Palace. In his fifth novel, Rubem Fonseca intertwines fiction and reality in an intense narrative set against the backdrop of Rio's turbulent political events during Getúlio Vargas's government.

Agosto, by Rubem Fonseca. Editora Nova Fronteira. 368pp. R$79.90.

Crônicas para Jovens: do Rio de Janeiro e seus Personagens

After years abroad with her consul husband, Clarice Lispector settled permanently in Rio de Janeiro. As a columnist, she drew inspiration from the streets and her conversations with locals. In this book, the celebrated author invites readers on an intriguing journey through the city, with nature and everyday life as constant themes.

Crônicas para jovens: do Rio de Janeiro e seus Personagens, by Clarice Lispector. Rocco. 144pp. R$39.90.


How to Be a Carioca

A best-seller since its release in 1992, with over 300,000 copies sold, this book is a fun guide for foreigners visiting Rio to better understand the "Carioca way of being." The promise is: by the last page, you'll feel like you were born and raised in the marvelous city. The book’s success inspired a Star+ series directed by Carlos Saldanha.

How to Be a Carioca, by Priscilla Ann Goslin. ‎Twocan. 148pp. From R$8 (used).

Solar da Fossa

This boarding house in Botafogo was home to poets, composers, journalists, and visual artists from across the country. They found shelter and created our culture here. Caetano Veloso, Paulinho da Viola, Gal Costa, Paulo Coelho, José Wilker, and Tim Maia are just a few names who passed through this space, now occupied by one of the city's largest shopping malls. Toninho Vaz narrates the years with amusing, romantic, and controversial stories. The book is out of print, but used copies are available.

Solar da Fossa, by Toninho Vaz. Casa da Palavra. 256pp. From R$45.

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